Meth abuse has seen a surge in the last decade. This uptick has brought about an increase in methamphetamine overdose deaths as well, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Over a six-year period, drug overdoses involving meth increased nearly five times.
Meth is a highly addictive drug that can have long-term effects on your health, and can be fatal. You don’t have to be addicted to meth to overdose. You can overdose on meth the first time you use it because you have no tolerance. Meth can be cut with dangerous chemicals like fentanyl, a highly potent narcotic. It takes a much smaller amount of fentanyl to overdose than meth. There’s no way to tell how much fentanyl is in street drugs like meth, so whether it’s your first time or you’ve been abusing meth for a long time, you’re always at risk. Other names for meth include crank, crystal meth, ice, and speed.
Meth Overdose Symptoms
Taking large amounts of meth can cause side effects that lead to overdose (OD). Signs/symptoms of meth overdoses include:
- Dilated pupils
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat/pulse
- Chest pains
- Stomach pain
- Psychotic episode
- Increased body temperature
- Changes in skin color, such as a bluish hue due to lack of oxygen
An acute overdose on meth refers to overdosing from taking a large amount of meth. This could happen to a first-time user or a chronic user. A chronic overdose happens in long-term meth users and refers to the physical damage from the cumulative effect of meth. Both types of meth overdoses can damage organs.
No matter what dose you take of meth or how infrequently you use it, you’re always at risk for overdose. Meth is a street drug and there is no way of telling what amounts of chemicals makers are using. A small dose of meth from one dealer could contain the same amount of dangerous chemicals as a large dose of meth.
Getting Help For a Meth Overdose
If you suspect a meth overdose, call 911. Unlike naloxone for opioid overdoses, there is no FDA-approved meth overdose treatment. Time is of the essence in any drug overdose, so don’t wait to call 911 if you even suspect this is happening. Most states have good Samaritan laws that prevent the caller and the overdosing individual from being arrested on drug charges.
The 911 center or medical personnel will likely ask you how much meth was taken and if it was snorted, smoked, or injected. They may ask you when the individual took the drug, if they took any other substances, their age, and anything you know about their medical history.
What Causes a Meth Overdose?
Meth takes effect quickly, heading directly into your bloodstream and into your brain and central nervous system. Your body rapidly responds to its presence and increases your breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. These quick changes can put you at risk for seizures and overdose. Meth releases extreme amounts of dopamine. The high amounts of dopamine are what impacts your cardiovascular system the most, leading to those dangerous overdose symptoms.
Sometimes the way you take meth can lead to overdose. A meth high from injecting or smoking wears off quicker than snorting it. People who inject it or smoke it may take more to keep their high going. However, even though you may feel like the high is wearing off, there is still meth in your system. Taking more puts you at risk for overdose.
Chemicals in meth can also cause an overdose as well as combining meth with other substances. For example, meth abuse and alcohol abuse can be a deadly combination, compounding the effects of both substances and increasing the risk of overdose.
Dangers of Meth Addiction
Overdose isn’t the only risk of meth abuse. Meth addiction has several health effects. Some of these include:
Meth abuse can affect your brain’s structure and the way it functions. Its impact on dopamine can cause psychosis. Meth may also decrease your brain’s white matter, which can lead to several issues like memory loss, confusion, mood fluctuations, and mental health disorders.
Compromised Immune System
Some research shows meth abuse can alter your immune cells and suppress white blood cells. This puts you at higher risk for infections and illness. People who inject meth increase their risk for bloodborne disease like HIV and hepatitis B and C. During the COVID-19 pandemic, data showed meth users were more likely to get COVID-19 and die from it.
People with methamphetamine use disorders can have several cardiovascular issues. Many have heart disease and high blood pressure. Meth use also increases your risk for heart attack and heart failure.
Meth can bring about twitching, involuntary movements, tremors, and muscle atrophy. Some research has found a connection between early onset of Parkinson’s Disease and methamphetamine abuse.
Long-term meth use can put you at risk for pneumonia, lung damage, and respiratory failure. Lung issues are a result of smoking crystal meth and constricted blood vessels that put pressure on the arteries.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
If you have a methamphetamine addiction and stop cold turkey without medical care, withdrawal symptoms can be harsh. Meth withdrawal symptoms vary by individual but could include dehydration or suicidal thoughts, both potentially fatal. You should never attempt drug detox without the help of medical professionals who can make sure you’re safe, attend to emergencies, and ease symptoms with medications as appropriate.
Looking For Addiction Treatment?
Without treatment, substance use disorders only get worse. Addiction recovery is hard work, but it’s worth it. If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction, reach out for help. You can prevent more physical and mental damage, and maybe even save your life or the life of someone you love. Our rehab centers offer evidence-based treatment by behavioral health specialists who are experts in their field and passionate about what they do.
Footprints’ addiction treatment programs include:
- Drug detox and alcohol detox
- Inpatient treatment
- Partial hospitalization program
- Intensive outpatient program
- Outpatient treatment
- Sober-living residences
We treat substance abuse holistically with traditional approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy as well as experiential therapies like EMDR. Treatment addresses trauma, mental health issues, and other challenges that often fuel substance use disorders.
There is a way out of addiction. Call us for a free, confidential consultation.